Saturday, December 29, 2007

Europe celebrates counter-culture as supermarkets mark half century

When Le Lion first opened its doors on to Place Flagey in Brussels 50 years ago, its first customers were a little confused. Accustomed to the attention of helpful assistants, they simply stood around waiting to be served. The shop managers were forced to leave sweets and other treats in the bottom of baskets to persuade customers to pick up the baskets and move towards the goods on the shelves.

The tradition was evidently picked up by every large Belgian store, as even today you can't get served.

The Delhaize family who founded Le Lion were forced to import everything, from trolleys to cash registers, from the US. But by the end of the decade, self-serve had caught on. An exhibition in Brussels – which opened this month at the International Centre for Urbanism, Architecture and Environment – charts the evolution of the supermarket around Europe.

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